Macron and Johnson speak, frostily

The two leaders spoke on the phone for the first time since the diplomatic crisis that erupted over the new Indo-Pacific security partnership.

Macron and Johnson speak, frostily

NEW YORK — The problems haven’t gone away, but French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson are now at least back on speaking terms.

The two leaders spoke on the phone Friday for the first time since the diplomatic crisis that erupted over the new Indo-Pacific security partnership announced by the U.S., U.K and Australia last week. In a sign of progress, the tone of the exchange was notably more constructive, if far from cordial.

“Boris Johnson expressed his intention to reestablish cooperation between France and the UK, in line with our values and our shared interests,” the statement put out by the French president’s office said. These issues include climate, the Indo-Pacific and counter-terrorism.

In a sign of the enduring froideur between the two countries, Macron “responded that he was waiting for his proposals,” according to the French statement, making it clear France considers the ball to be in Johnson’s court to back up intentions with deeds.

Earlier this week, Johnson made light of France’s fury over how the U.S., U.K. and Australia had negotiated the trilateral security partnership, known as AUKUS, behind its back for months, costing Paris a multibillion-euro submarine contract.

“It’s time for [France] to prenez un grip about this, and donnez-moi un break,” Johnson said in Washington on Wednesday.

The statement from Downing Street about the call with Macron struck a notably more cooperative and respectful tone.

They reaffirmed the importance of the UK-France relationship The leaders noted in particular the strategic significance of our long-standing cooperation in the Indo-Pacific and in Africa,” the British statement said.

Both sides also “agreed to intensify cooperation” to “break the business model of people smugglers.” Migrant crossings in small boats from France to the U.K. have been a major issue in U.K. domestic politics and led to tension with France, which was accused of not doing enough to hinder the crossings.

Other disputes remain between the two countries in the aftermath of Brexit, including fisheries licenses and the Northern Ireland protocol, thorny issues which the leaders “agreed to keep talking” about, according to the U.K. statement. There was no mention of these issues in the French statement.

The two leaders will see each other next at the G20 in Rome in October, while Johnson will host Macron and other world leaders in Glasgow in November for the COP26 climate summit.